USA Today/Matt Bush

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers and predicts an outcome for Auburn's game at LSU.

In his StatTiger column Stuart Carter previews and picks a winner as Auburn heads to LSU for its SEC football opener.

Leonard Fournette (above) is a key player for LSU's offense.

No. 18 Auburn (2-0) vs. No. 13 LSU (1-0) 

Series Record: 21-27-1

Last Meeting: Auburn (Jordan-Hare), 41-7

About the teams:

  • Coach Les Miles of Louisiana State is 132-50 all time and 104-29 at LSU. Coach Gus Malzahn is 31-10 all time and 22-7 at Auburn.
  • Auburn is coming off a 31-24 victory over Louisville and Jacksonville State rallied late to defeated Chattanooga, 23-20.
  • Auburn won last year’s meeting at Jordan-Hare, 41-7. 
  • LSU is 16-4-1 at home against the visiting Auburn Tigers. Auburn’s last victory at Death Valley was in 1999.
  • Miles and LSU are 7-3 vs. Auburn.
  • LSU returns nine starters on offense and six on defense.
  • Under Miles, LSU has compiled a 59-26 conference record, including a 31-9 conference record at home.
  • Auburn's close game against Jacksonville State cost the Tigers in the national polls, dropping from No. 7 to No. 15 in the coaches poll and from No. 6 to No. 18 in the AP Poll.
  • LSU finally opened up its 2015 season with a road victory against Mississippi State, 22-19. Auburn needed overtime to defeat FCS opponent Jacksonville State.
  • Based on recruiting the last four years, LSU is the second most talented team in the conference on its total signings of 4-star and 5-star talent.
  • LSU has a higher number of returning starters than Auburn and more scholarship players with 20 games of experience.

How they match up...

*A primary reason why Miles is 7-3 vs. Auburn has been the play of quarterbacks. LSU has passed for 14 touchdowns with only four interceptions in those games while Auburn compiled only seven touchdown passes with nine interceptions vs. LSU’s defense.

*Malzahn’s offense has averaged 394 yards and 21 points per game against Louisiana State.

Jason Caldwell

Gus Malzahn has a 1-1 record as Auburn's head coach in games vs. LSU.

*LSU rushed for 266 yards against Mississippi State during its season opener. Auburn has allowed an average of 199 yards rushing in its last 33 conference games. Can Auburn control the LSU ground game?

*In four of the six meetings against LSU, Malzahn's offense was held to seven impact plays or less. The 2015 Auburn offense has only seven such plays through two games. If Auburn continues to struggle in this area, look for the Tigers to be held under 17 points. 

*Auburn is currently No. 113 nationally in pass efficiency on third down while LSU is No. 24. 

Keys to Victory...

  • From 1992-2014 the team with the most rushing yardage during the game is 17-6 in this series. This has always been a very physical matchup and the better rushing offense has a huge advantage.
  • During the 10 meetings against a Miles-coached LSU team, Auburn has averaged only 5.0 yards per play on first down while LSU has averaged 6.4 yards. Auburn must play well on first down to prevent the third and long situations.
  • During the three victories over LSU under Miles, Auburn combined for 22 tackles for lost yardage while allowing 12. During the seven losses LSU had 59 tackles for lost yardage, allowing 39 to Auburn.
  • During eight of the last nine meetings between the two programs the team with the better third down conversion has won the game. Both teams were 4-14 during the 2008 game. 
  • Since 1992 Auburn has a combined pass efficiency rating of 138.2 on third-down during victories over LSU and 94.1 during their losses. 
  • Can Auburn find the means of generating impact plays against this LSU defense? During Malzahn's collegiate career his offense averaged 307 yards and 20 points per game when held to five impact plays or less. 

What to Watch...

  1. Since the Southeastern Conference went to a championship game format Auburn is 8-2 vs. LSU when the game is played within the first three weeks of the season. Auburn is 3-10 when the game is played after the third game of the year. 
  2. Miles will scheme old-school with the intent on winning this game with a strong running attack, defense and solid kicking game.
  3. If Malzahn fails to be creative in the passing game, LSU will thrive on previous tendencies in the Auburn pass offense.
  4. Will Malzahn give players like Kerryon Johnson, Stanton Truitt and Jason Smith "role player" or situational opportunities to break previous tendencies?
  5. LSU will likely be conservative on the offensive side of the football. Will this be the opportunity Auburn needs to be more consistent on defense?

 Final Word...

Based on its performance through two games this is not the matchup that favors the visiting Tigers. Auburn has struggled against the run and running quarterbacks. The strength of the LSU offense is its run offense and the athletic ability of quarterback Brandon Harris.

LSU’s defense has a very strong front seven, which will match up with Auburn's current offensive strength in Peyton Barber. LSU will scheme to force Auburn to beat the home team with the passing game. Throw in the turnovers and Auburn has been a mess on offense. Auburn has only six offensive touchdowns on the season and six turnovers.

LSUsports.net/Quinn Perret

Brandon Harris (above) will be making his third college start on Saturday.

Based on the recent history of this series this game will come down to which team has the most success, running the football. I believe both coaching staffs will scheme to protect their quarterbacks, which could make this a low scoring affair. Turnovers and miscues could turn this game heavily in favor of the recipient. Since 1996 Auburn is 7-23 on the road when losing the turnover battle and 25-9 when winning it.

With Auburn struggling to protect the football this should be a looming concern going into Baton Rouge. Auburn has turned the ball over at least once against LSU during the last six meetings with a total of 11 turnovers to six forced by the Auburn defense.

Malzahn and his coaching staff have a major challenge this week dealing with a youthful team making its first SEC road trip while battling a slew of injuries to key contributors. Through two games running the football has been the most consistent aspect of Auburn’s offense despite the fact the 2015 running attack is 30 percent less productive than 2014. The 2015 Auburn team can best be described as a “work in progress,” which is not a good place to be playing against LSU on the road. Auburn is currently 5-11 on the road in conference play since the 2010 season and will likely continue to struggle until this team becomes healthier and experienced. LSU 27, Auburn 17

Around the Southeastern Conference:

No. 17 Texas A&M over Nevada

No. 22 Missouri over U Conn

Mississippi State over Northwestern

Vanderbilt over Austin Peay

No. 7 Georgia over South Carolina

Arkansas over Texas Tech

Tennessee over W. Carolina

Florida over Kentucky

No. 2 Alabama over No. 15 Ole Miss

Season Record: 20-4


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